The Coral Gables ban on plastic bags is official. Commissioners unanimously approved the ordinance early this week. That makes Coral Gables the first city in Florida to ban the use of single-use, carryout plastic bags. This comes on the heels of Styrofoam being banned in Miami-Dade parks.
Could Brickell be next? We wouldn’t mind seeing that happen.
The newly approved ordinance prohibits the use of plastic bags by retailers in Coral Gables and at city special events. Violators will be fined from $50 to $500, with some exceptions. Exceptions include: plastic bags that the shopper provides, plastic bags without handles, bags used to hold prescription medicines at a pharmacy or veterinarian’s office, dry cleaning bags, pet waste bags, yard waste or trash bags and newspaper bags. The enforcement and fines for special events will start immediately. Special event organizers could have their permits revoked if they are found in violation of the ban. Initially, retail violators will receive warnings. After a year-long window ends, allowing retailers to take action, fines will be issued starting at $50 and increasing to $500 after a third violation. Businesses are encouraged to promote the use of reusable bags. Patrons will be encourage to bring their own reusable bags, or retailers can provide them for free or for a fee depending on their preference.
Deputy City Attorney Miriam Ramos also clarified that the ban would not apply to smaller special events or private events like a child’s birthday party or a family reunion. Residents are also free to continue use of the plastic bags they may have in their own homes.
“This was not an easy process and we certainly got plenty of calls from our businesses,” Trowbridge said. “Most are migrating away from plastic bags but they want to do so, kind of, on their own terms.” The ban follows a court ruling upholding the city’s Styrofoam ban in a lawsuit brought by the Florida Retail Federation.
Across the state, local governments are pre-empted from regulating plastic bags. A state statute required the Department of Environmental Protection to conduct a study by Feb. 1, 2010, on the need for new or modified regulation of containers, wrappings and disposable plastic bags. It also prohibited municipalities from regulating those products until the report’s recommendations were approved. “The Legislature was given the report in 2010 and, to date, none of the recommendations contained therein have been adopted,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jorge Cueto wrote in his ruling in the Styrofoam case.
Much like the ban on Styrofoam, the city plans to conduct an educational campaign for residents and the business community. Other cities across the state are slowing considering similar regulations to ban plastic bags and Styrofoam. Palm Beach as well as 30 or so more cities in Florida are working on this small step with a very large impact on our environment.